Social Care Heading For A Crisis, Says MP

ADULT health and social care could be heading towards a “crisis” if changes are not made to the system soon, north Norfolk’s MP has warned.

Norman Lamb, who is also Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said there were already widespread problems with the way the elderly and vulnerable young adults received care in their homes – including a shortage of carers and poor links between the NHS and local authorities.

And he believes the situation will only deteriorate in the future, particularly in areas like north Norfolk where there are a large proportion of elderly people. He said: “It’s bound to get worse because we have got a rapidly ageing population, with the number of people hitting 100 dramatically increasing.

“With people not always growing old gracefully but with a range of medical issues, unless we address these issues we are going to have a developing crisis.”

On average in north Norfolk, the county council provides more than 6,000 hours of home care every week through a combination of private contracts and in-house carers.

The council and NHS Norfolk admitted the system was under an increasing amount of strain but said improvements were being made.

Harold Bodmer, director of adult social services, said the council, which spends £36m-a-year on home care, had recently re-tendered its contracts for carers which had allowed it to provide an extra 7,000 hours of home care across the county each month.

He said: “We are taking this very seriously. We think the situation is improving all the time. For example, last year there were more people waiting in hospital for domiciliary care than there are now. But that’s not to say there isn’t more to do.”

He also said efforts were being made to give people more say about the care they receive – by giving them control over their budgets.

Mark Taylor, director of service integration for NHS Norfolk and the county council, acknowledged a need for better links between health and social care and said work was already under way to achieve that. He said: “What we are hoping to do during the course of this year is set up half a dozen pilot schemes which would see GPs and their teams working more closely with carers.”

Mr Lamb acknowledged some positive steps were being taken, but it was not enough. “It’s very much an exception rather that the rule. It’s the odd pilot here and there. There is a long way to go,” he said.

The MP believes changes to the way health and social care is funded are key to improving the system. He said investing more state funds into preventative care and providing care at home – employing more carers – would save money in the long run by reducing hospital admissions.